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Poll shows vouchers losing by wide margin

Political experts say the controversial private school voucher law looks like it's on its way out. And the latest poll released Friday indicates the majority of voters will vote against it — mirroring the results of two other polls.

The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University released the results of its Utah Voter Poll, a survey of 417 voters earlier this month.

Sixty-one percent of those polled indicated they would vote against vouchers, while 39 percent said they would vote in favor of the program.

Moreover, 90 percent said they were very certain of their vote.

The poll is very similar to the last two Dan Jones and Associates polls — one released earlier this month and one in July — that produced nearly the same results.

Political experts say they will be very surprised if election results

don't closely mirror the polls.

"Dan Jones has such an incredible history of accuracy over the last 30 years that his polls alone are very powerful ... and then you add another respected organization poll to it that comes so close to his — that adds even more credibility to the results," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"If there were a lot of volatility in this race, then you would certainly see it over three polls — you would see some results that just would not match up so closely — but these (three poll) results are within the margin of error of being identical," he said.

But leaders on either side of the issue are taking the polls with a grain of salt.

Lisa Johnson from the anti-voucher Utahns for Public Schools said the results are nice to hear, but it doesn't change anything in their campaign's sprint to the finish since the other side will be working equally as hard.

And this week Speaker of the House Greg Curtis, who is a voucher supporter, said that "polls are just polls," only snapshots of a few people's opinion at a given period of time and not necessarily a forecast of the end result.

Even so, since the last poll leaders on both sides have kicked in with a number of news conferences, debates and advertisements trying to boost votes.

Jowers said poll results can foster two emotions: desperation or incredible energy.

"It seems desperation will become steadily more the emotion (on the pro-voucher side) if they don't see any movement in those numbers because it does look very difficult right now," Jowers said.

"There has been all this frenetic activity from voucher supporters to try and make up the difference in these polls, and whether they buy them or not they realize that something is going on that does not look promising."

The voucher program would allow Utah families to receive private school tuition vouchers ranging from $500 to $3,000 per student attending a private school, based on parents' income.

It also appropriates $9.2 million to offset any financial impact school districts may experience for five years after a student leaves and goes to a private school.

But critics of the law say the program shifts public money to private schools and last spring filed for a referendum to let voters either repeal or keep the voucher program.

Utahn's will be voting whether to repeal the law on Nov. 6.


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com